Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in America. With over 155,000 deaths per year, lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. Lung cancer can be highly curable when found early, but it has been historically difficult to detect, that is until now.
Research shows that screening using a low-dose CT scan can help detect early lung cancer before clinical signs or symptoms become evident. Early stage cancers can be more easily treated and more frequently cured than later stage cancers.
Screening for lung cancer is not a one-time test, but a process that involves a periodic evaluation of your lungs over time to look for newly emerging cancer. The capability of CT scanners to detect tiny lung nodules and to compare the nodules for changes in size over time is critical to the screening process. WellStar North Fulton Hospital offers cutting-edge technology and premier programs to fight lung cancer, providing patients the best of care from diagnosis to supportive services.
Is screening right for me?
If you have a history of heavy smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, it could be. The data from a national screening trial found 20% fewer lung cancer deaths among heavy smokers ages 55 to 75 screened with CT scans compared to those screened with chest x-rays. Anyone concerned about lung cancer and considering a screening CT can speak with his or her physician about the risks and benefits. Since the results are new, some physicians may not yet be aware of the benefits of a screening CT exam.
Who is eligible for this screening?
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a network of some of the world’s leading cancer centers, recommends screening for those:
- 55 and over with a 30 pack year* smoking history and if former smoker, must have quit
- 50 and over with a 20 pack year smoking history or 20 year exposure to secondhand smoke, plus one of the following additional risk factors:
1. You have a close blood relative with lung cancer; or
2. You have a history of pulmonary fibrosis, COPD, cancer (excluding non-melanoma of the skin), or exposure to cancer causing agent.
*A pack year does not mean the number of years you smoked. It is the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years. For example, 2 packs a day within the past 15 years equals 30 pack years.
I’ve never smoked or quit years ago. Am I at risk for lung cancer?
Former smokers represent 60% of all lung cancer cases. The longer you have stopped smoking, the lower your risk of lung cancer relative to someone who continues to smoke; however, smoking does permanent damage to the lungs, so the increased risk of lung cancer never totally resolves. Yes, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer; however, it is not the only cause.
Statistics show one in five women and one in 12 men diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. Never smokers represent approximately 18% of people diagnosed with lung cancer. Second hand smoke exposure increases your risk. Other risk factors include exposure to cancer causing substances also called “carcinogens.” You may also be at increased risk if a close blood relative has had lung cancer or if you have been diagnosed with a previous cancer or a lung disease known as pulmonary fibrosis or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
In studying the symptoms, it is important to note that many lung cancers do not cause symptoms and are often found during the course of diagnosing another illness.
To learn more about lung cancer screenings or schedule an appointment please call 470-793-4AIR (4247). ❍